Chefs cook up the past amid isolation  

Childhood flavours soothe the stress of isolation as they come alive on the pages of forgotten menus.

Published: 28th June 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2020 11:54 AM   |  A+A-

Chef Gaurav Wadhwa

Chef Gaurav Wadhwa

Express News Service

Memories of childhood are stress busters. Gurugram-based Nazneen Shakur has turned her kitchen into a portal to a pleasant past in the past two months to take her two children to the tables of her wonder years.

"Of late, I’ve been craving the food I ate while  growing up in Lucknow. Now I’ve enough time on my hands to call up relatives to find many old recipes. There is a Lucknow dish called Takey ki Sabzi which is made with gram flour and shaped like small coins. I couldn’t find the recipe online. So I got on the phone to Lucknow to Amritsar to Noida to Manchester, until I finally got the formula for my authentic dish," she smiles.

These last few months have been full of 'back-to-the-past' moments. "Comfort food gives us a sense of well-being and pleasure, while fulfilling emotional needs. When we feel stressed, our body creates cortisol, or the stress hormone. Cortisol can make us crave sugary, salty and fatty foods, because our brain thinks it needs fuel to fight the threat causing the stress. During such times, comfort food does the trick. It helps the stress hormone levels drop significantly," says Vijay Thapliyal, Executive Chef, The Lodhi, Delhi. 

It's not just amateur foodies like Nazneen who are looking for forgotten recipe books to get a bite of nostalgia. Even professionals are succumbing to the lost and found game. Ravi Shankar Sharma, Executive Chef, Novotel Ahmedabad, is one of them. He makes a delicious Alu Matar ka Nimona.

Chef Gaurav Wadhwa, Founder of Delhi-NCR-based Theos, has an interesting comfort food memory to share. When he opened the restaurant after the lockdown, an old lady came in looking for sweet buns with tutti frutti for her grandson. Gaurav apologised for not baking commonly available breads. But she wanted him to bake a batch of buns specially for her. Moved, the founder-chef agreed.

"When the bread came out of the oven, I checked for taste and suddenly realised what she was speaking about. Those buns reminded me of exactly how life should be—simple, sweet, warm and soft," he says. Gaurav has decided to add the childhood favourite to his menu.

Coming from Uttar Pradesh, Chef Neeraj Tyagi, Director of Culinary at Pullman and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity, recalls the variety of dishes prepared in the family kitchen which was both innovative and nutritious. "The pandemic has forced us to go back to our childhood in search of foods which are immunity boosters" he says.

Being a fan of the farm-to-table concept, Tyagi uses seasonal produce to recreate the fresh flavours of the dishes served at home in his village. It’s time for time travel, back to the kitchen of old.

Bun Maska by Chef Gauarav Wadhwa, Founder, Theos


  •  All purpose flour: 2 cups
  •  Salt to taste
  •  Instant Yeast: 1-5 tsp
  • Sugar: ½ cup
  •  Butter: 1/2 cup
  •  Hot Milk: ½ cup

For filling

  •  Coconut: ½ cup grated
  •  Tutti Frutti: 1/2 cup
  •  Sugar: 2 tbsp
  • Honey: 2 tbsp
  •  Cardamom Powder to taste


  • Take a mixing bowl, add flour, salt, sugar, instant yeast, butter and give it a good stir. Then add the hot milk a little at a time and knead to a soft and sticky dough. Cover the dough and let it sit in a warm place for two hours.

  • Take a bowl, add the coconut, sugar, cardamom, honey and tutti frutti and give a good mix. Set it aside.

  • Preheat the oven at 350 degrees

  • Take big lemon-sized balls of the dough. Dust and roll each ball into a small circle. Then place two tablespoon of filling in the middle of the rolled dough and gently bring the edges together and seal the filling.

  •  Place each of these rolled buns in a baking tray lined with parchment paper greased with butter.

  •  Brush each bun top with milk and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top turns brown.

  • Once done, brush each bun top with butter and cherry and then transfer it to the cooling rack.

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